How to Choose a Great Therapist for Your Teen

Choosing a therapist for your child is tough, especially when your child is a teen.  Not only do you need to trust the expertise of the therapist, feel like they understand you as the parent, and connect with them, your teen also needs those same things.  Your teen will need to feel heard, understood, and like the therapist is someone they can spill the tea with.  Otherwise, what’s the point of putting your child in therapy?  So what are some things you need to consider, when searching for a great therapist for your teen?

1) Do they have experience working with teens?

I know, I know.  This one seems obvious.  Most therapist won’t lists teens or adolescents as a speciality, if they don’t have experience.  Still it’s good to ask what kind of experience they have and what areas of expertise and issues they treat.  A therapist trained in teen eating disorders may not be able to effectively support your teen who is dealing with social anxiety, and vice versa.  Any great therapist will not have any ego about stating clearly what their expertise is and what issues they are confident in treating.  If the therapist doesn’t seem confident in treating the issues your teen is struggling with or you’re not confident in what they’re saying based on your own research then move on.

2)  Spend time shopping around.

It takes persistence to find a great therapist, but it is so worth it.  The number one factor in therapy is the relationship with the therapist.  The relationship is the change tool.  If you don’t feel like it’s a good fit expertise-wise, personality-wise, the way they work, or what they’re about, it’s okay to say “thanks, I’m going to keep looking.”  The same thing goes with the investment of therapy.  

3) Consider your budget.

Maybe you found a great therapist, however, they don’t take your insurance or their fee is above what you’re able to invest at this time.  When it comes to money, it can be a major bummer to have to look elsewhere, but ultimately, it may be the best decision for your family.  Money is a big factor in therapy, and if the therapist you want is not in your budget, it’s going to impact the progress in therapy, because you may be more likely to cancel your teen’s session or schedule less frequent sessions, which will likely get in the way of your teen reaching their goals.  There IS a great therapist out there for you at your price point.  Sometimes it takes hunting around and lots of research before you find one who’s going to work.

4)  Have your teen talk to the potential therapist

Like I said above, both you and your teen have to be connected to the therapist.  Teens love choice.  One of the biggest parts of adolescents is learning to share power with the adults in their lives, and what better place to practice this important skill than in selecting a therapist?  A great therapist will have a conversation with your teen similar to the one they had with you.  They’ll ask your teen what they’re struggling with right now, how they will know if therapy’s working for them if they look 3 months, 6 months, or a year down the road, and any goals they have for themselves.  This will be a quick ten or fifteen minute conversation (via phone or video), which will help start the relationship between your teen or therapist OR save you time, if your teen says, “yeah, no.  I didn’t like them.”  If your teen is reluctant to go to therapy for whatever reason, and you’re concerned they’re going to say “no” to any therapist, it may be helpful to give them a choice.  The choice is not whether or not they go to therapy.  You as the grown up get to decide that.  The choice may be, “I’ve found two different therapists, which may be a good fit for you.  I’d like you to speak with them both and decide which one will work.”  Getting buy in is super important and this is one way you as a parent can help support the therapeutic process and get your teen engaged, so they’re more likely to have positive outcomes in therapy.  

5) Consider what format will work best for your teen.

Now more than ever there are options for the way therapy is done, so take advantage of what’s available.  Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve all had to adapt to life on a screen.  Some teens do just fine with therapy over video.  They feel safe discussing what’s going on, are reliable about logging on, have a quiet, private space at home where they can do their session, and feel connected to the therapist, even if they’re not in the same room.  This is not every teen.  Many teens struggle with attention issues or sensory issues, which make it difficult to feel connected through a screen in the same way they might in an office.  Depending on your comfort level, family health status, etc., in-person therapy may be a better option for your teen to help them have a better experience in therapy.  Do you think talk therapy just won’t work for your teen?  Some therapists even offer walk and talk therapy or other types of experiential therapy (art therapy, music therapy), which can be more engaging if your teen is struggling with opening up in such an awkward setting, sitting across from a grown up stranger who’s asking them to spill the tea.  

6)  Go with your gut.

Finally, above all else, trust your instincts.  If you connect with a therapist and so does your teen, they fit your budget and have the right format, go with it.  Connecting with a great therapist will feel like:

-“This therapist gets my struggle.”

-“This therapist gets my teen.” 

-“I believe this therapist will help my teen.”

-“I trust they know what they’re doing.”

-Instilling confidence

-Providing a sense of hope

-Concerned and caring about what’s going on

If those are the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing after you and your teen both talk with them, then book them. 

Congratulations, you just found yourself a great therapist!

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kristen@gtxteentherapy.com
737-808-4888

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